Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Laying it down: no more bike jail

My new mounting technique
It's been 12 days since I was last on the bike. I needed to find a way to get ON the bike. I can walk and pedal without much issue**, it's the mounting of the bike that twists the knee to a point where it doesn't feel stable. So, I wondered if laying the bike on the ground, straddling the frame and then pulling the bike upright while it's underneath me would work.
It did.
While it's a very silly, awkward thing to see, it serves its purpose: getting me out on the bike.

Outta bike jail!

Testing out the handlebar extender and sturdier camera mount

Yaaaa! 4.62 miles!

** your mileage may vary when it comes to 'not much issue'. For me, that means "no Quasimodo-like gait" or "just the average limp".

I'm also thrilled with the results of a reflective black tape that blends in almost perfectly with the black racks:

Looks like the total mileage for the year is 3,969. I think I like this number, it's full of odd numbers divisible by 3. Very round, very satisfying. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A tale of heartwarmery

I'm still 36 miles away from 4000 miles. I haven't been on the bike in 10 days and instead I've been riding that roller coaster of emotions and unknowns since the injury: "When will I get to ride again?" "Will I need surgery?" "How long is the recovery?"

Everyone's been very supportive and empathetic... because every cyclist has that thought in the back of their heads: you never know when you'll sustain an injury that will keep you off the bike for a while. Knowing that I have bad knees I somewhat expected a doozy to hit me one day or another.

So, it's circulated amongst my cyclist friends that I 'needed' 36 miles: they brainstormed and Marko offered to tandem ride me around for the remaining 36 miles. It would 'count' if I was pedaling with one leg, right? A bakfiets or pedal-cab wouldn't count because I wouldn't be pedaling.

The offer alone means more than those 36 miles. Marko is one of the kindest, most generous souls I've had the honor of encountering.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chasing 4000... and then this happened

I'm less than 36 miles from that number: 4000
4000 miles traveled on the bike for the year.
It's a nice number, a nice even one, lots of zeros there.
I don't think I'm going to make it.
Because this:

The urgent care facility prodding and poking devices

Suddenly, without warning and with no trauma: my knee stopped working. It refused to straighten out, just like that while I was walking through the kitchen at home Thursday night. Much pain when trying to bear weight, swelling and lots of movement in the knee cap took place.

Does this look swollen?

Friday I called off work for the first time in 2 years. I tried to get an appointment with a orthopedist, but no luck: the soonest anyone could see me was Monday. I went to one of those urgent care places: they took x-rays and found nothing other than "Wow, your knees are beat up! They look like they've been through a war! I thought I was looking at 80 year-old knees!"
Thanks for the editorial remarks, Doc. She categorized it as a sprain. Interestingly, the affected knee gave no response when she thwacked at it with the rubber mallet. I still have awesome blood pressure: 110/60
I'd gladly trade my low blood pressure and cholesterol numbers for better knees.
48 hours later, I still can't bend my knee. The swelling and pain in the kneecap have gone away, but tightness in the back of the knee keeps me in bed, relying on Spouse for food and water. I've forgotten how much I hate crutches.

The view from my perch.

I'm bored and I want wear clothes other than pajamas and get back on the bike.

Just 36 miles, that's all I wanted.

December 22nd UPDATE:

After seeing an actual orthopedist who is suspicious that I have yet another meniscus tear, I have an MRI scheduled.

Having suffered a meniscus tear 8 years ago in the same knee, I can say this pain is much, much worse.

I was glad to be at work (!) and not wearing sweatpants.

By the end of Monday... after 4 days, I was finally able to straighten my leg.

December 29th UPDATE:

I got a call from the orthopedist's office, the tear is significant with hunks of meniscal debris floating around inside the knee. So significant they aren't bothering with the "Well, these are your options: injections, therapy, or surgery" route, they went right to "We're scheduling you to see a surgeon."

While I do feel well enough to pedal on flat trails, when I try and mount the bike, my knee says "NO!" to the minor twisting of the knee required to hoist the right leg over the top bar. 

While I could see a surgeon a few days sooner, I opted to wait a few days and see the surgeon of my choice.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Watch for bicycles... and submarines and dinosaurs

It's a shame that this sign is required, I'm sure it was unavoidable after too many people not looking where they're going crashed into each other.

Bicycles, submarines and dinosaurs, oh my!

This is the Carnegie Science Center. they're re-doing the landscaping, I hadn't ever seen the "Watch for bicycles." sign with all the vegetation and the direction I'm normally going.
Pittsburghers are notorious for just stepping out into traffic without looking, I've seen many near misses between cars and people just blindly stepping out in front of moving traffic. My born-and-bred in Pittsburgh spouse has vicious scars all over his legs from a car vs teenage boy incident. I've seen the way this man crosses the street and I'm amazed he made it beyond age 14. You'd think he'd learn to look both ways before crossing the street after his legs were mangled under a car, right? Nope.
It must be something in the Pittsburgh water.
I'll try and look at this positively, it keeps me on my toes: you never know when someone will randomly step in front of your bike.

Our office is getting 'new' furniture today and the Bike coordinator found this bit of awesomeness behind his old desk. He came to me with it and said: "You're Red Rider, right?"  Close enough. I think it's a spinning-wind ornament. Nice.
Poor cyclist looks like they're in the fetal position.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Chute Noob- paying it forward

Today I had an opportunity to show a cyclist who's been living in the city for a few months how to negotiate The Chute. I noted he'd stopped along the Schenley Park/Panther hollow trail and was digging around in his pockets. I later learned he was looking at a map. He caught up to me just before the bike lane along Saline Street and asked for my help getting to the Jail Trail. Well, sure! Follow me! I explained the Inbound 2nd St/Outbound Chute unspoken rule and that some folks like to trespass over the tracks, he declined that route out of respect for trains and a distaste for trespassing and giving cyclists a bad reputation. He was frustrated that the map he had just didn't show all the odd levels and weirdness of The Chute as well as the lack of signage. I agreed wholeheartedly and expressed a hope that eventually, it would be 'fixed'.
He told me how he was from Columbia and still adapting to our climate. He said it was 80 degrees in Columbia today. It was in the 40's here with a misty drizzle all day long and I wasn't complaining for December.
Very nice to meet him and such good karma to show someone one of our most convoluted routes.

I spent the day making a loop around the city, checking out the new, unfinished bike lane from Millvale up to the 40th St Bridge. I observed from afar, I'm not ready to jump into that before it's completed.

I made the Whole Foods/REI/Marty's Market bathroom loop, enjoyed lunch of tofu, lentils and quinoa at Whole Foods and a quadshot latte at Marty's while reading the NY Times. Oddly enough: an article about butter in coffee caught my eye.

As if a quadshot latte wasn't enough to get my nerves going, I had this.
Seriously, I'm getting sick of this crap. The only reason I haven't landed on someone's hood (yet) is because I've learned to expect this nonsense. My 'this guy's going to be an idiot' senses go off at certain times. Someday, my asshole clairvoyance will betray me.

21 miles closer to 4000.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Jingle Bells: blending in and getting squashed

Today was cold and gloomy, but good enough to ride.

I'd received a new pair of Swift panniers yesterday and this was my first ride with them. I'd needed a set of small panniers for the front and these are perfect.  I also love how easily I can mount and remove them from the rack. It's like they were made specifically for a Surly Nice rack. They also grip so firmly to the rack with the bungee hook that I don't worry that they'll fall off. They're made of an incredibly thick waxed canvas and I chose a hi-viz pink for the pockets. Love them.

Note the bells hanging from the mirror...more on those later.

The morning started out with yet another encounter with a 5K run. This time it was a Christmas-themed run called the Jingle Bell Run for arthritis.

Do I see a chicken amongst the reindeer and elves?

Having learned a lesson never to salmon in a 5K run, I went with the flow. The road was shut off to traffic, but I blended so well with my antlers... the runners were donning their 'gay apparel' and nearly everyone was dressed as elves, Santas, wearing red and green tutus or antlers.

I rolled through the city and trails out to the Waterfront (I'm getting really bored with this route) and back. I noticed the Steelers autograph seekers who camp at the training facility on the South Side suckered a player into signing some stuff. I'd mentioned to some people recently that I never see them actually snagging autographs but maybe the cold made the player sympathetic and decided to relent. I'm almost certain it was Rothlisberger who was in this truck that stopped.

I became disgusted when I rode past the Stadium later and saw that every banner has a rapist on all the lamposts. Yuck.

I was pedaling down East Carson and heading to Amazing Cafe for lunch when I lost one of the jingle bells that I had hanging from my mirror. It was promptly crushed by the Toyota behind me. It amuses me to no end to see it get crushed.

So, I'm less than 100 miles away from 4000 for the year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

"Sprinting" and not being last

I've found a Strava segment that I've been working on getting faster at: The Bridge Sprint
It's just a quick run from Downtown over the 7th Street bridge (AKA Andy Warhol Bridge).
I've managed to gain a PR of 48 seconds there. Not bad for an arthritic middle-aged chubby woman on a heavy bike with a messenger bag and less-than-aerodynamic panniers full of groceries. I'm pretty sure that's a division where I'll place high on the podium.
I like having short sprints to get the heart rate up. If I don't have these invisible races with no one, I'd just putter along at a slow amble and never burn as many calories as I should.

In the Women's leaderboard, I'm 25/82. Well, hey! I'm not in last place!

That's the extent of my competitiveness: being excited about not being in last place.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Night Lights and nice motorists

Pittsburgh is gorgeous at night. That is all.

I'd wanted to get some shots of the bike in the parking lot with my car's headlights simulating street conditions to get a sense of how well my reflective stuff worked. It didn't work out as I'd planned. #cameraproblems
So, instead... I was able to document the differences in a headlamp with a cutoff and one without.

A very bright headlamp with a cutoff

It lights the way very well.
I also have a headlamp with no cutoff and it is blinding:
Pointing ahead

Angled down a bit

Now, pointed directly in front of the bike:
Like so...

I wonder if taking the advice of those polite Canadians "Less Blink, More Glow" would be prudent. Perhaps making the bike more visible vs stabbing everyone around me in the eye with a harsh headlamp is a better option. I love the 'pulse' options of my rear/red lights and have stopped using the flash mode.

So far, no close passes while wearing the antlers. I had one impatient 'fat guy in a pickup', but he didn't buzz me when he had a chance to pass. I'm beginning to wonder if cyclists in Santa hats and other festive-ness protects one from angry drivers. It does bring out many a smile in passers-by and drivers.
The Santa Effect?
The Antler Condom?

Top Ten: things said to a cyclist with antlers

10. "Hahahahaha!"
9. "Nice!"
8. "Awesome!"
7. "That's hilarious!"
6.  "Love the antlers!"
5.  "Hey Rudolph!"
4.  "Look Mom, a reindeer!"
3.  "Christmas Spirit: you have it."
2. "There's a woman with a sense of humor."
1. "Can you fly too?"

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dirty Dozen spectating

Pittsburgh: land of hills n'at

Today was the Dirty Dozen: a race that hits 13 of the most gnarly hills in the Burgh. We've got some serious hills here; one of which is the steepest in the world.

I camped out on a picturesque spot on the Smithfield Street bridge and waited. I saw Su riding below the bridge and I was able to call her so we could meet later. I tried yelling down to her to get her attention, but I have a volume issue. I can only yell loudly when my life is in danger.

I got some nice shots, almost 300 in fact. There are around 300 riders, so that sounds about right.


I cannot imagine doing 2 of these hills in one day and not feeling serious repercussions, let alone 13. These folks have some legs. Wow.

Then Su and I were able to meet, she'd lost her pannier and needed an extra pair of eyes to look for it when backtracking. That sense of loss, that "Who has my stuff?" feeling: I hate it. I keep my wallet and keys in my pannier frequently, for me to lose that would be disastrous.
I still hoping some kind soul will Craigslist it.

When I got back to base, I wanted to check on the progress of the bike storage area. This is what I found:

They're building a room.... inside the room?

Ruby's virtually impossible to get out of the corner they put her in.

Maybe they're just using the bike storage area to build some outdoor (the slanted roof is my clue) storage shed? I can't wait for the construction to be finished and the bike abuse to stop.

Friday, November 28, 2014

You need a sense of humor when everyone is trying to kill you

On Wednesday, the office was blessed with a half day... this meant I could spend the rest of the day on the bike. Never mind that I had arrived at 5:30 to get all the work I needed to get done out of the way before the holiday weekend started, I wouldn't be too tired to bike or put off by the rain/snow mix!

I discovered that the Taco Truck was parking in the Strip today and my taco cravings started well before I made it over there. I found the truck and tried a plain cheddar/jack taco. So good...one is the perfect size for me. I want to try all the exotic tacos they make.
I felt taco remorse when I saw that butternut/vegan taco.
Then this happened on the way back:

I've got two headlamps going and I'm in hi-viz. Why do you pull out in front of me?

Wandered about the city, met hubby for dinner on the South Side and returned in the dark.

I got a chance to use my new saddle cover

The tree at Point State park is a beacon. So's the bike.


Thursday was Thanksgiving and I didn't ride. I made sure I ate enough that burning calories the next day was necessary.


Friday is... the day after Thanksgiving when I believe that this is the earliest that Christmas decorations should be put up.
On went the antlers:

Fun fact: reindeer/caribou are the only species of cervids where both the male and female sport antlers. 
Mother Nature's cool with my antlers.

Friday is also Black Friday. The only shopping I did was at Thick when I took Fizz in to have the saddle looked and and have my brake rotors cleaned... they were squeaky/squeally since Wednesday.
Eric explained why the saddle kept creeping back and I was happy with the results.

I stopped for lunch afterwards at the Pub Chip Shop where they had a turkey meal with deep-fried balls of stuffing. Whoa. I'd never heard of such a thing and they sold me on it immediately. Amazingly good.

I then headed to the Strip for a caffeinated beverage and poke around. I walked into the shoppe with my helmet still on and overheard a man say to his friend: "Now, that's a woman with a sense of humor."
I won't disagree.
I got many shout outs and comments on the antlers from passers by all day long.

As I walked out with my latte, there appeared to be a police chase taking place. Officers running on foot, unmarked cars with lights and several other vehicles were all converging on someone.
I decided to wait until the speeding vehicles subsided before hopping back on the bike.

I had a pleasant conversation with a ClassyCab operator wearing a Santa hat who liked the antlers.

Then, a few blocks alter...as I'm waiting behind a truck at a light I'm noticing:
  • West Virginia/Nascar plates
  • Pickup Truck
  • Antler/dead deer decals all over the truck.
My thoughts are: "This is NOT a truck I want to be in front while I'm wearing antlers"
I laughed to myself and was glad I was behind this potential Hillbilly deer-killer menace.

Then things went horribly awry.

  • Salty language.
  • My I'm going to die! yell.

I spent the afternoon and evening wondering how I could have avoided that and blaming myself a great deal too.
I'm thankful the driver had the window down and could hear me screaming, otherwise I would have been a news item.
And there's my Thanksgiving tie in: I'm thankful to be breathing at this moment.

Yes, BikeSnobNYC... this is so true.